Empower Body Positivity with Teri Hofford

August 9, 2021 Artist Spotlight

Episode 88: Teri Hofford

In Episode 88 of the Portrait System Podcast, Nikki Closser speaks with body positivity expert Teri Hofford about her journey as a photographer, psychologist, educator, and body positivity activist. Teri began her professional life as a teacher, but she always had a passion for photography. When her father passed away at a young age, she was inspired to live a life without regret. She began a photography career focused on empowerment. While working on several series of campaigns based on social issues, like eating disorders, scars, and feeling like too much of something, Teri realized the healing potential in creating space for people to show up authentically with all their complexities around who they are intact. Inspired to dig deeper, she went back to school for certification in applied positive psychology. Bringing these tools and techniques to bear in her portrait business enabled Teri to bring another level of service to her clients. It has also led her to a new passion of training photographers to be able to work more effectively with people who have bodies that are outside the typical mainstream representations.

Be sure to listen to the whole podcast to hear how Teri has grown and developed her business through these different phases of pursuing her research and passion for helping others. You also won’t want to miss her insight into how the mind processes viewing images of ourselves in a split second, and how through understanding that process, you can have more positivity toward yourself and help your clients have that as well.

In this blog, you’ll find some of Teri’s empowered portraits, links to her web presence, and answers to some bonus questions.

To hear Sue’s interview with Teri, check out last week’s LIVE: Empower All Bodies.

You might also enjoy these Portrait System courses on body image and boudoir:

Get to Know Teri Hofford

Q: Most artists have a point in their life when they knew this was meant for them. Do you have that moment?

A: I did a project where I invited people into the studio for a quick portrait. They could wear as much or as little as they wanted, and the intent for the project was to showcase that there isn’t one specific body type. It was meant to highlight the ridiculous nature of us all trying to achieve a “universal standard” of beauty when no such standard actually exists. I thought I’d get like 20 people, but I ended up with over 75 between 2 provinces!! The emails the women sent me after their experience were enough for me to know that this is where I needed to be, but more importantly, they let me know why I needed to be there. 

Q: How did you push past fear when building your business?

A: Pretty sure the first few years I was riding the high of the Dunning-Kreuger effect: overly confident for the level of skill. However, I always stayed focus on who I was serving and why. My passion for change was greater than my fear of failure, so I kept my focus on that when it got difficult

Q: For someone starting out on their photography journey what advice would you have for them?

A: If you are planning on running a photography business, understand that it will be 95% business and 5% creativity. You need to be confident in your work to truly serve your clients and run your business, because if you aren’t, every negative experience/interaction will take you down quickly. 

Q: What fellow artists in the industry do you gain the most inspiration from?

A: There are so many! Ellen Von Unwerth has always been an inspiration for me — the way that she shoots technically incorrect and manages to showcase women in such a powerful way! I also love Rob Woodcox’s work and the fat positive work by artists like Shoog and Milena Paulina. I love artists who aren’t afraid to showcase the beauty of body diversity and really challenge people’s definition of beauty!

Q: Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

A: Ideally, I would love to be working with creatives to help them bust through the mindset/self-value side of things. I really love creating workshops, shoot outs, and intimate experiences where people can challenge their beliefs and biases in a safe and supportive space. I look forward to hosting retreats in nature, creating content that helps people work through their body image, so they can go forward and help others. And all while I am doing this, I want to keep creating self-portraits and work featuring marginalized bodies so that I am a part of the solution to diversifying the bodies in the media!

Subscribe to The Podcast

ART19SpotifyStitcherTuneInRadioPublicApple Podcast




Teri Hofford

Follow Teri: Website  – Instagram Facebook



Click Here to Read the Podcast Transcript

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Please note this transcript was generated by AI and may contain errors.

00:00:00:10 – 00:00:02:18

You’re listening to the Portrait System podcast,

00:00:02:26 – 00:00:18:04

All workshops now I need to have diverse bodies like so that people can just see that it’s possible because if we as photographers cannot see that it is possible for diverse bodies to be photographed and how the hell are they going to see it?

00:00:19:18 – 00:00:49:25

This is the Portrait System podcast, a show that helps portrait photographers and people hoping to become one, navigate the world of photography, business, money and so much more. We totally keep it real. We share stories about the incredible ups and the very difficult downs when running a photography business. I’m your host, Nikki Closser, and the point of this podcast is for you to learn actionable steps that you can take to grow your own business and also to feel inspired and empowered by the stories you hear. Today’s guest is Teri Hofford, and she has quite an amazing human being.

00:00:50:02 – 00:01:20:21

Teri is a photographer and author, a speaker, coach, activist and a body image expert while she started out as a photographer. She found that she was incredibly drawn to educating creatives about body image and making sure that all body types are inclusive within the photography industry. Teri and I had a personal chat about her life experiences and how she incorporated her passion into her brand and also how she markets our services and her education with her photography. Without further ado, here is Teri Hofford.

00:01:21:16 – 00:01:25:00

Hi, Teri. Welcome to the portrait system. How are you?

00:01:25:08 – 00:01:27:01

I’m good, thank you. Thanks for having me.

00:01:27:04 – 00:01:39:13

Yeah, of course. Of course. So I learned about you from Sue. Sue follows you and just loves what you do with body image and just your work in general. And so it’s just a real honor to have you on.

00:01:40:08 – 00:01:44:05

Thank you. Yeah, I was very excited when I saw that she liked my stuff.

00:01:44:07 – 00:01:44:22

So that’s a huge honor.

00:01:46:19 – 00:01:52:10

very cool. So, OK, so you’re a photographer, but that is not your main sort of business right now, correct?

00:01:52:20 – 00:02:18:15

Correct. Yeah, and that’s just a relatively recent kind of switch over for me. Yeah. The pandemic really put a lot of things into perspective for me about where I wanted to go with my business and everything like that. And so, yeah, the timing for me was really good, I guess you could say, to shift more to education, body image coaching and really leaning into that. So, yeah, yeah.

00:02:18:24 – 00:02:49:13

I wonder if you could tell us where you started with photography and how you kind of just ended up with this new branch of your business. Because I think one thing first, I loved it obviously cover the story of just photographers and how they run their business and how all of that work. But I know there are photographers out there who would want to add like some other sort of branch to their business, whether it’s coaching or education or whatever. So I wonder if we can go through the whole gamut of how you started and then how you added it.

00:02:49:15 – 00:02:57:10

But I know that was like a whole lot of questions and answers with your photography business and how that all happened.

00:02:57:15 – 00:03:30:16

Yeah, well, interestingly enough, it all kind of goes hand in hand, to be honest. So it kind of all progressed along the same time. So photography wise, I have actually always done photography even as a kid. I remember like lining kids up on the playground and like photographing them as my little point and shoot like I saw in this sear’s catalogue. And but I grew up in a very small town, like a farming community where creative things were not a job, that you got schooled to become a teacher and all that good stuff.

00:03:30:18 – 00:04:08:12

And then I went to Korea to see if I could like wanted to teach, like to go back to school and actually get my teaching certificate. Yeah. And but being over in Korea and teaching a curriculum, I realized that, no, I don’t want to teach a curriculum, but while I was there, I was very lonely. And so I started to fall back in love with photography as a way to just kind of document my own process while I was there. And at that time, while I was in Korea, I actually ended up losing about one hundred pounds and getting into like bodybuilding and martial arts and things like that.

00:04:08:27 – 00:04:44:05

And and at the time I didn’t realize it. But looking back now, I realized that I didn’t I hated myself more as I lost more weight than I did before, when I was just like, well, this is just who I am kind of thing, and this is my body as it is. And then I moved back to Canada to it was just on a whim. But at that same time that I moved back, my dad actually got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And so it was seeing him like it was about three months from the time he got diagnosed when he passed away.

00:04:44:07 – 00:05:18:28

But seeing him have like a lot of regrets with his life of things he didn’t get to accomplish or do, kind of like push myself, but also my sister and my brother into like turning that into something more like a legacy to be fulfilled kind of thing when it was also seeing him kind of like starve to death, essentially, that it kind of was a wake up call for me to realize, like here’s this person that wants to eat desperately and here I am purposefully starving myself to look a certain way, like that’s all kinds of fucked up, essentially the only way to put it.

00:05:19:04 – 00:05:51:17

Yeah. And so that kind of started like the wheels turning in my head as far as like there’s got to be something more. But the body positivity movement hadn’t really started yet. The Facebook was just a thing. And so it was still a while before I had to undo those beliefs. So but moving back to Canada, I got back into photography. I don’t know why. It was like, yeah, I’m good at Self Portrait, so obviously I can shoot weddings. And I started doing weddings and family photos and all those kinds of things along the way.

00:05:52:18 – 00:06:23:00

And then it was when I finally I actually went to creative live and I got to participate with Lyndsey Adler in the posing one to one course on there. And I met somebody there that offered to photograph me in exchange for me photographing their family. So I was like, yeah, let’s do this. And then they were like, I’m going to shoot you in boudoir. And I was like, well, I don’t really know what that is, but OK, let’s do it. And so I went got my hair done, my makeup done all the good stuff.

00:06:23:02 – 00:06:56:11

And the photos were beautiful. However, they were very much headshots or like not there wasn’t a lot of full body things that maybe that is just how she photographed. Normally I never really, really knew anything about the genre. Right. But I started to look at the photography industry as a whole, and this is back in twenty fourteen or twenty thirteen. And nobody was photographing fat bodies for sure. And if they were they weren’t showing them. Yeah. And so when things pissed me off I like to fix them.

00:06:56:13 – 00:07:27:10

So I was like, let’s do a project to show that there’s not one body type worthy of being photographed. And so I just put a call out on Facebook and asked anybody that wanted to participate could come. And I was like, maybe I’ll get like twenty people that are excited to come take off their clothes in front of me for five minutes. And I actually ended up with seventy five humans participated. And it was not so much the images that came out of that, that changed my whole life.

00:07:27:12 – 00:08:07:10

Essentially it was actually the messages I got back about the experience they had, where they were with me for like ten minutes. Maybe I only needed one photo. Yeah. And they the emails I got back right after before they even saw the photos were like, oh my God, just doing that thing. Like I feel so much more confident. I never thought I could do something like that. I, I didn’t think my body could be photographed like so many messages. And I was like, well, shit, if I can do this in ten minutes, what can I do if I have a day with these humans? And so immediately I just I’m very intuitive, driven.

00:08:07:12 – 00:08:37:14

So immediately I was like, no more weddings, no more families like this. And I spent that whole next year really just researching and photographing almost every day. I’d like to say as many bodies as I could. And it was through that duration of meeting so many people and recognizing that everybody hated their body, like from a size zero to a size twenty four. Everyone hated their body. So how could it be about the body? Right. Right, right.

00:08:37:17 – 00:08:55:21

And then that got me into researching the psychology of body image and understanding more. And then that’s also when the body positivity movement kind of became a thing and we were starting to see more representation of bodies in the media and so on. And so it was just kind of a it was good timing, I would say, for all of it to happen.

00:08:56:09 – 00:09:17:25

I mean, it sounds like especially like when you were in Korea and then losing your dad and all of that, like a lot of really intense, important things happened, like to evolve you to where you’re at today. And then also like like you said, speaking with seventy five different people and just getting the perspective because they were photographed boudoir. Right.

00:09:17:27 – 00:09:45:11

So, yeah, not even not even like traditional boudoir. They were just like the whole thing was they could wear as much or as little as they wanted. It was like a basic backdrop one night and just like pose however you want to stand there, pose like because I didn’t know anything about posing at that time, but I really the whole purpose was to just capture bodies and be like, this is what you get to show up and just be the best version of yourself in this photo. Yeah.

00:09:45:19 – 00:10:17:25

I mean, it’s basically a campaign in in Sue talks a lot about campaigns. We really promote doing a campaign and something that has to be something that’s well, it doesn’t have to be. But if it’s going to be the most successful that it can be, it has to be something that you’re passionate about. And you’re authentic about it, and it sounds like that for you was truly very important and it really does come down to doing a campaign. And I’m curious if that helped your business as far as being able to book more clients and how that campaign really helped you or did it not help you?

00:10:18:09 – 00:10:53:00

Yeah, so I actually think number one it did help me just by getting my name out in the community more than anything else. Like I live in a relatively small city anyways. But at that time in my city, there was maybe one other person doing boudoir, like traditional boudoir. And so all of a sudden, but they also were not showing like fat bodies. Again, this was just bodies being bodies the way that they are. And I think that was like really refreshing to a lot of people in the community to see. They’re like, whoa, even if it wasn’t them, they’re seeing their friend like, oh, my goodness.

00:10:53:02 – 00:11:30:26

Like, there’s this there’s a we can do this. Like, it just kind of woke people up a little bit here. And so that helped get my name out really quick. And so in that regard, yes. But also I realize now, like I would always do these, like when I wanted to learn something about body image, I would create these little campaigns or projects where I would invite people in for free, like it was a free experience. But it had a very specific intention, whether it was to understand more about eating disorders or understand more about people that have been told they’re too much of something or have scars that they want to show off or whatever.

00:11:31:01 – 00:12:08:12

And so I would do these little projects over like a weekend or whatever. And so people that maybe couldn’t afford my services necessarily were able to get in and see who I am, see my studio and kind of get that little tip toe in a bit. You could say so. But I was collecting data basically to create other programs like body image boot camp and someone later on. But they were getting a little taste of the experience, which then would give them the confidence to say, oh, I survived that and there’s a beautiful photo of me.

00:12:08:24 – 00:12:35:03

Maybe I am worthy of an actual photo shoot because I think that’s one of the things that holds a lot of people back. They say most people will say that is money and for some cost is definitely a factor. But usually it is more of an excuse as to like I actually don’t think or the fear of me being seen on camera is greater than the reward that could come out of it.

00:12:35:14 – 00:12:50:03

Yeah, like they think they’re not photogenic. That’s like the biggest thing, like, oh, I’m not photogenic. I’ve had people say, like, I’m going to be the one that challenges you to the point where you don’t get beautiful photos. Like it’s amazing the different things that you hear from people, from all body types.

00:12:50:09 – 00:13:21:07

Yeah, that’s the thing is everybody says that. So now I just tell my clients that I’m like, listen, if I had a dollar for every client that said that, I probably wouldn’t have to charge for my services. Right. But even hearing that, it allowed me to then start to dig a little deeper during the reveal session and say, OK, the photos that you’re struggling with, like, let’s figure out what it is specifically. And I always look back. I’m like, how the hell did I know how to do that? I don’t know. But I just intuition. Right? Just like ask the question and see what happens.

00:13:21:18 – 00:13:33:21

So I would ask questions, but my brain would be compiling that as data to say, you know what? Ninety five percent of clients that didn’t like face forward photos. Let’s look deeper into what that might mean.

00:13:35:08 – 00:13:58:29

Or like really fifty percent of people really didn’t like. No, I would say one hundred percent of people don’t like their stomach. So let’s look into why that might be. And then it gave me kind of little tangents that I could do further research on outside of photography. But it was photography that allowed me to have access to the data to get me going in that direction, if that makes sense.

00:13:59:05 – 00:14:35:21

Yeah, totally. OK, so you are basically and at the time I’m assuming that your sort of income was photography. Yeah, definitely. When someone was coming into your studio, whether it was for that ten minutes or for whatever reason you were basically pre selling without being salesy, you were just exposing them to the experience with pre selling. And then because sometimes people need to see you or your business or your face or something that you’ve done 10, 15 times before, they decide that you are the photographer I want or that I can do a photo shoot or so I love that.

00:14:35:24 – 00:14:45:06

I love that. It’s just getting them in without the intention of booking your shoot. Right now, it’s just you’re in the back of their mind now. It’s great. I love it.

00:14:45:18 – 00:15:19:15

Thanks. Yeah. And I think it also helped just keep me connected to the community because I love what I see now for a lot of photographers is it’s a lot about like online marketing, online marketing, online marketing, like everything’s online, which obviously makes sense in some capacity. But very quickly they forget how to do things in person with people and like, yeah, you have your bridal shows. But I quickly, like very quickly learn like bridal shows were not my thing. Like, I wanted the sister of the bride and the mother of the bride or the bride, you know.

00:15:19:25 – 00:15:53:21

And so I did that one time. I was like, yeah, that was not for me. You have to try all the things to say, OK, how does that sit with me? And like, let’s take a look and what worked and what didn’t work and why do we think that works that way? And then and then once I realized, like, no projects get you your best, like not just return on investment but also return on information. So another ROIC. So because I have time to talk with people, send out questionnaires, do the things that I realized, like, oh, if I just have my own in person things.

00:15:54:05 – 00:16:05:17

No. One, there’s no overhead cost aside from my studio rental, which I’m already paying for my time, so why not do it that way? And it’s and they’re fun. They’re so fun to do.

00:16:06:06 – 00:16:31:09

Yeah. Yeah. Now before we move on to your projects that you’re doing now and just your boot camp and all of the things that you have added to your brand that you’re doing now, I know people are out there probably wondering about how you structured your boudoir shoot. How did you price them? Like what type of sessions did you offer? So could you just like if you if I were to hire you, Terry, to be my boudoir photographer, what would that experience look like?

00:16:31:21 – 00:17:03:17

OK, so first of all, I am that person that puts their pricing on their website. So you could actually just go check on my website, not you. But I mean, like what I currently offer and I’m also the person that changes things a lot. So, again, Data-Collection, let’s see. I do write more than. Yeah. And and also being in Facebook groups following what other people are doing, even though it’s not in alignment. Again, you have to try it to know that that e for me.

00:17:04:18 – 00:17:27:23

So I think I’m trying to remember when I first started, I think I was doing full collections, like basically three different collections. I definitely was not charging what I charge now for sure. And I think my my highest collection at the time was just under a thousand dollars because I couldn’t feel OK to like another digit on there,

00:17:29:08 – 00:17:38:02

even though now I’m like, OK, no, like this is emotionally exhausting. This is physically exhausting. And you have a lot of overhead. Like this is an experience.

00:17:38:14 – 00:17:40:06

Everyone listen to that out there.

00:17:41:19 – 00:18:16:21

To do this was the thing I, I if I could go back, I would definitely do a business course in the first year and I didn’t because it was fun and creative and all of us get there on our own time. Well, yes, that’s true. And so it took me about two years before I did my cost of doing business. I’m not going to lie because I was like, well, it’s just numbers. I’m not good with numbers like limiting beliefs like that. And I was like, OK, but like also you can’t just every year tax time would come around and I’m like, oh, like nobody can live on this.

00:18:16:23 – 00:18:53:10

What are you doing? You’re not like, yeah, it’s fun, but like you also need to support yourself in some capacity. So it was doing my cost of doing business, which now is my advice to every single creative, regardless what your job is like, do your cost of doing business and there’s like free spreadsheets out there that can help you do it. That is the least amount you can get out of bed for and work for. Yes. And to me, the way my brain works, if I have logical evidence to counteract my emotional belief system, it’s a lot easier for me to do that.

00:18:53:15 – 00:19:06:20

So I need those numbers to say there is no way so that the emotional brain can be like, oh, but I just feel bad for them or whatever excuse people pleasing Terri wanted to throw out. Right.

00:19:07:16 – 00:19:13:13

So it’s like, oh, I’m working for four dollars and twenty five cents an hour. Like

00:19:15:11 – 00:19:17:03

when you really break it down

00:19:17:18 – 00:19:23:17

and just an fyi people were still telling me I was too expensive when I was charging the least amount people.

00:19:24:05 – 00:19:55:00

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. And it all comes down to those beliefs that we have, the limiting beliefs and and I think that’s one of the reasons why Sue is so heavy handed when she talks with what’s on the education. Space education is a lot of that with the cell value in business. And you know how many people tell me that I’ve interviewed on this podcast who went to photography school, who never learned how to run a photography business? It’s like and like you said, when you’re I’m not a numbers person, but I feel bad.

00:19:55:02 – 00:20:20:22

All of those things. So many people out there listening can One hundred percent relate to. I was that way. I can completely relate to that. So it’s so good to hear. I mean, I know this, but for others to hear that you could have thought this way once. But you can move forward and you can change that belief. You can move in the direction of a successful business so. You don’t have to be stuck there.

00:20:21:01 – 00:20:54:11

Well, interestingly enough, the more I’ve done the research on the body image stuff, I’m realizing that bodies are just the same as money. Like it’s all mindset, all of it. None of it has anything to do with the actual thing you think you’re dealing with. It all comes down to I’m not enough, I’m worth nothing and I don’t value myself, so therefore nobody else will value me. And which is why I’m so in alignment with what Sue teaches and and stuff like that. And it was listening to a few of her things where she doesn’t hold back and is very like, yeah, I’m like, I’m listening, I’m listening.

00:20:55:06 – 00:21:15:25

But you do have to get there on your own. And when it comes to beliefs and and all that good stuff, it’s a process. It’s a process like that’s a thing. And so it’s just like as long as you’re moving forward, that’s the biggest thing. And then every point I always say, like, you have a choice, like, yeah, you can continue to do what you’re always doing, but you can’t expect different results if you keep doing that. Yeah.

00:21:15:27 – 00:21:26:24

Great point. Yeah. Yeah. OK, so let’s say I book you for a shoot. I’m ready then. Do I get hair and makeup. Do I get different outfits. How does it all work.

00:21:26:26 – 00:21:59:19

So interestingly enough, even all of that has changed since like before the pandemic. So about two years ago I was doing tradition, I’ll call it traditional boudoir, where it’s like everybody get sexy photos, bring your lingerie, do the things. But it wasn’t sitting right with me or not. I wouldn’t say right. It just it wasn’t for every client. And the only and so interestingly enough, it was my own experience with being photographed that helped me realize that, oh, there’s other ways that we can actually deliver this service.

00:21:59:27 – 00:22:32:14

And so previously I would show up to my portrait, my photo sessions with lingerie. I don’t wear lingerie in real life. I am the most comfortable nude or like super like like sports bras or bralette. And like high waisted panties, just like casual, comfortable stuff that I can move in. I’d love to move and but then I go to the shoots because I thought that’s what I needed. That’s the key. And then I’d be put into all these sexual positions. So it was about three years ago I came out as asexual, which means I honestly don’t care about sex.

00:22:32:26 – 00:23:03:16

So no wonder there was a disconnect between the photos. They were beautiful photos. And that’s the thing. It was never the photographer that was doing a bad job, but there was a disconnect between who I was seeing in the photos and who I felt I was in real life. And so having that experience for myself and I was actually shooting with Kara Marie down in Texas where she’s like, I brought all the things I like, but I brought some like tank tops, like whatever I normally wear. And she’s like, I don’t want this other shit. She’s like, this is what you’re wearing.

00:23:04:05 – 00:23:39:27

And so I was able to dress like I do and feel confident as I am, not as who I thought I had to be. And so I love this. And so that change that changed a lot for how I approach clients going forward. And then I was like, wait, yeah, there is no like we all talk about. Posing foundations are important, don’t get me wrong there, but like if we keep trying to fit everyone in and my friend Boonen says as he’s like, we keep trying to fit clients into the boudoir box, but we need to be building the box around the client because that allows it to be more inclusive.

00:23:40:05 – 00:24:11:15

It allows it to be more inclusive to all abilities, all sizes, all gender identities, like everything. If we can start to recognize what do you want from this experience? And then it becomes more of a collaboration as opposed to a power dynamic of me telling you how you should feel and telling you what empowers you. I don’t want I’m in and I always like I have a tattoo on my wrist. It says in power and I say I’m in the business of empowerment, not sexy photos.

00:24:12:02 – 00:24:45:03

So I shifted what I was calling boudoir. I just called it empowerment photography like two years ago and was like, this is what I’m doing. And to me, I had to do that to shift the intention of what I was offering the client. So now when you come in, you can we do offer hair and makeup and most clients do choose that. But if you actually never wear makeup, so like every time I’ve had photos done with makeup on, even the minimal amount, I’m like, I don’t know her who’s that. So now I prefer photos of me with no makeup on because I recognize the person in the photo.

00:24:45:27 – 00:25:20:26

But I also understand how fun it is to play with makeup sometimes. But that’s not for me to decide for my client. So letting them have the option to choose has been really important. And then same thing with wardrobe we like I send out a wardrobe guide which before would be like, here’s what you can wear in my studio. Da da da da da. And now it’s like, OK, here are some things you maybe haven’t thought about that you could wear if you wanted to, but ultimately just show up in things that make you feel confident and comfortable, because if you put something on that makes you feel less than confident, it’s going to show in the photos.

00:25:22:05 – 00:25:57:07

Right. And so yeah. So all my wording change. And then the biggest change happened last November. I would say we were still kind of in lock down a little bit. So I started executing this idea and then we had to stop it. But I sent out a questionnaire two questionnaires now to my clients upon booking. So one is what I call the dig deep questionnaire, and you’re able to answer as many questions as you want, but you don’t have to. But it’s all about your relationship to your body. So we’re doing the work and you’re getting to know your mindset and relationship with your body before you step front in front of my camera.

00:25:58:15 – 00:26:36:08

But that also lets me know what your areas of insecurity are not so I can hide them during your photo shoot, but so we can address it during your photo shoot. And I can provide you a different way of looking at and asking curiosity questions around around those body bits for you. So it’s a quite intense questionnaire. I’m not going to lie. But then the second questionnaire is actually a visual questionnaire. And I found this was super helpful for me because if you go to my Instagram, you’ll see I shoot very different all the time, depending on what I’m creating.

00:26:36:22 – 00:27:08:26

And so but I got very much gotten to the rut of the I call it the assembly line photography, where it’s like every client looks the same, every pose is the same, all the editing is the same. And I wasn’t telling their story. I was simply putting them into the boudoir box. And that’s where the disconnect happened. So now I have a visual questionnaire that allows them to say, here’s what I like about your work. This is the textures that I’m drawn to. These are the colors that I really like. I want to incorporate natural elements or I don’t.

00:27:09:03 – 00:27:49:13

Here’s the hair and makeup that I like. Like it allows them because most people can’t tell you what they want, but they can definitely show you if they’re being compared, right? Yeah. Yeah. And so now I have the inner information of what you’re struggling with before you come in. So now I can kind of put myself like in a more of a coach mindset and then I have the visual information so that your sessions can be completely different than somebody else’s. But I can make sure that whatever you want to get out of the session is done, because that was the thing is I just assumed, which we all do that, oh, you’re coming in for a boudoir.

00:27:49:15 – 00:28:22:14

You want sexy photos. Yeah, but sexy to you might be different to me and confident to you. Looks different to me, but we just use those words so it’s important to get clients to break down. Well, when was the last time you felt confident for you? It could be that you stepped maybe doing this podcast, like when you are like, yeah, I’ll do that. And you pushed through and you did something you didn’t think you could. For me, it was just the other day I was doing self portraits in the middle of an open field with people driving by wearing nothing but like a bathing suit.

00:28:23:17 – 00:28:42:21

I know, but that’s very different experiences. It was like, OK, so what was it, what was the action or what were you doing? And that helps me figure out posing, lighting and just the whole experience so you can actually embody what you what the intention is as opposed to just like saying feel this way.

00:28:43:24 – 00:29:17:09

Absolutely. There are so many things that you said in bringing it back to how people can apply, you know, this all of these kind of ideas, not necessarily about body positivity or body image, because that’s your thing. That is what you brought to your brand that you teach, that you’re passionate about. But if you are trying to do a business a specific way that doesn’t feel authentic to you, I’m going to keep going back to that. Just like with the campaign to you, it did not feel authentic. You didn’t feel like you were servicing your clients in the way that they deserved.

00:29:17:14 – 00:30:07:07

So you changed it. And I love that. Whereas I think we get stuck. We watch of course, we see what other photographers are doing and we think we need to do it the way that they’re doing it, when in reality you can do it, whatever the hell way you want, as long as it’s authentic to you, you’re providing a great service to clients. You’re making them feel empowered. They’re getting what they need. In the end, it doesn’t matter what genre you do or how you do it, as long as it feels good to you and it feels good to your clients, like hearing hearing you describe about how like you’re just you allow it to be very open ended to what they want and how, you know, like I can tell you have you’re a creator, you know, and you were I’m like listening to you thinking like, oh, shit, I don’t know that I could be that open ended about like, this is what.

00:30:07:14 – 00:30:43:00

OK, let me back up. First of all, I want my clients to especially with, like, hair makeup in their outfits. I’m very much like I used to have this whole studio wardrobe and all of that. And I just got rid of it because I’m like, first of all, not a whole lot of clients were actually wearing it, which led me to believe, like they didn’t want to live, like they want to wear their own stuff. So, of course, I’m very much when I when I give my directions as to because people want to know what do I bring, like here are some ideas like jeans in quotations. If your jeans wearer. Dresses, if you’re a dress whearer, you know, I try not to make it and I say like this is you.

00:30:43:02 – 00:31:21:12

I want you to feel like you. But I’m also very like I like to shoot in my studio with my specific lighting. And I have poses that I know, like people really love. And so I’m more like it gives me anxiety to have things be so open ended. Like you could do whatever you want, but that’s me and you love that aspect of it. So like, I guess my point is for people listening, like, you can make your business however and whatever feels good to you and feels good for your client and you are going to attract those like you’re going to attract different clients than what? I’m going to attract one hundred percent.

00:31:21:14 – 00:31:49:06

And that’s OK. We’re all going to have. You know, just our own path, and we don’t have to fit into a box, you can learn. Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent here. You can learn a business model. And make it into whatever you want, as long as you have the foundations of running a business with, like the cost of doing goods and the pricing and whatever, but how you get there and what you do within what you’re creating is so up to you.

00:31:49:23 – 00:32:24:19

Well, and that’s why I think it’s so important to gather. I always picture it like a big toolbox in your like just collect just collect the things. You don’t have to use them all the time. But it’s good to know that you can if you need to write and similarily, like I do, have a posing flow or a method that I usually will go through with clients. I would say actually maybe not a posing flow more of a set flow because I also shoot out of my studio, at least for the next year. And so there’s a very specific way just to keep myself on track time wise.

00:32:24:21 – 00:32:56:24

And because I’ve been doing it for six years now, that it just makes sense to go with that flow. So that way and the foundational posing and so on is still there. But once they’re in there, once they’re in that pose, I’m like, OK, and then I’ll give this were like I went to school. Right, for teaching and creative writing. So that’s why I’m like, this is where I get to use my creative writing, because then don’t come up with like, like stories to help them tap into whatever the intention was that they set for the session.

00:32:56:26 – 00:33:28:13

So asking questions or think about a time when you were …. and immediately and doing that, their body will shift, their body language will shift into whatever they felt in that moment because that’s how the brain works. And so that is what I want to capture. So I’ll start with the foundation, but then we move it to be more like them, because I just remember, like, making people like what I was doing more traditional boudoir. I’d be like, arch your back like like, you know, like make it hurt.

00:33:28:18 – 00:34:09:19

But then I realized I’m like, that’s very which is there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what the client wants. Just a flag. Yes. But not every client wants it and not every client can do. And I think that’s where photographers are getting into trouble. And this is why they ask like, oh my God, I have somebody’s coming in that has a disability. Like, how do how do I do this for them? And they feel frozen or stuck or I have somebody coming in. That’s a size twenty two when I don’t know what to do with their body and it’s like number one, it’s because we haven’t seen bodies like that as often as we need to be, but also because every posing flow we’ve seen, all the education we’ve seen has been done more often than not on very specific body types.

00:34:10:02 – 00:34:43:11

And so yeah, it’s OK that your brain is freezing, but that’s when you have to go back to the basics of what am I doing, what am I here to offer? And I experienced that with the first person I photographed that was in a wheelchair or was a wheelchair user. And they and yeah, there wasn’t as much posing that I could do. I had to change up what I was doing, but I was like, Terri, focus, what are you doing? You are here to empower this person in the way. So figure out what empowers them and say shoot with the light that you always shoot with.

00:34:44:07 – 00:35:15:24

Let them wear the outfits that usually like whatever their intention was that would complement that, like just do the same thing. It’s not about the poses, it’s not about. And that I realized a lot of after the pandemic was how much stuff I had accumulated in my studio thinking I needed it. But this goes right back to, you know, if I have the right stuff, then people will hire me if I have the right things. And that, I think, comes from being in Facebook groups and seeing what everyone else is doing.

00:35:15:29 – 00:35:44:16

If I do that, then I’ll be successful. And it’s like, whoah, some of my best work was done when I had, like my my husband’s grandmas couch in the studio. When I first moved in, there was no furniture at all and I had nothing except for me and the relationship with the client in front of me. As soon as I started adding in all the shit, it became very much like, get on the couch. This is what you do. Yeah, look how beautiful the set is. It’s not about the client, if you’re looking at that.

00:35:44:18 – 00:35:52:01

Yeah, yeah, totally. I can relate to that. Some of my very favorite shoots were at the beginning when I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

00:35:52:10 – 00:36:23:23

Yeah, the Dunning Kruger effect is real when you have you have that extra confidence like I know what I’m doing totally. But it goes away and then you’re like, no, I know what I don’t know. And now, oh God, all this stuff to compensate. But then it sounds like you’ve also come back around to like, wait a minute, what am I doing here? And that was yeah. That’s why I’m getting rid of my studio next year. I’m like, no, I can create work anywhere I go. It doesn’t I don’t need. I loved my studio and it did well for me.

00:36:24:04 – 00:36:27:26

But it’s like all the stuff, the amount of money I spend

00:36:28:16 – 00:36:59:12

on, you know, I actually got rid of my studio as well. I had two studios. I had two full functioning Studios one in Michigan, and now I let go of my studio in Seattle, I go back sometimes to work and I just run a studio while I’m there. And now I and I entered a share space that I don’t have to manage. It’s not my stuff there. I can’t collect things. And I am just like, oh, look, it’s just so perfect for my soul to not have. And I still shoot my studio all the time. My studio, the one I share.

00:36:59:19 – 00:37:29:18

Yes. I don’t have to anyways. Yes, I can relate to that now. Now, Terry, I want to hear about how you kind of added this brand, not added this brand. That was your brand added this these services that you provide now, the education, the boot camp, you know, all around body positivity. How did you transition into that with and how did you market it just for people out there who might want to be adding something to their sort of photography business and brand?

00:37:29:26 – 00:38:00:21

Yeah, great question. So I think that I have I have two things going for me. One is self-assurance and a kind of futuristic or a very visionary. So and I would say trendspotting. So I can see I always say I see gaps like I did with the body, like I was like, nobody’s photographing these bodies like I’ll go in and I’ll do that thing. So then once I started working with clients, I was like, OK, I got a handle on how to work with clients. I got this business going on the side here.

00:38:00:23 – 00:38:31:10

Then I was like, OK, but now there’s like a huge gap here in the photography industry. Like, obviously, if I as I always said, my my whole mission is to actually have maximum impact. So I as one person can only do so much. I can shoot maybe two hundred clients a year effectively. But if I could teach people how to do it, then that is exponential impact across the globe, technically, especially with the Internet, that makes it that much easier. And so I was like, this is amazing.

00:38:32:18 – 00:39:03:13

Also, I went to school to be a teacher. So it kind of like that’s where like I don’t know if you’ve done the, like, Venn diagram of like purpose experience to find your purpose, like your values, your what is it? Values, passions, strengths and experiences. Those are the four things until you fill those in and then that then you brainstorm all the different ways you could execute that. And and for me, all of that came out to like, OK, you like to teach like I love I love teaching workshops.

00:39:03:15 – 00:39:34:26

Like it is so fun. And it was actually last year when the pandemic hit, I really noticed it significantly, which allowed me to really lean into it, thank God. But before let me go back a bit. Twenty sixteen was when I, I created like a posing guide essentially called Confident Curves. And the reality is, is like people were like, oh my God, this is revolutionary. No, it was the same boudoir poses just with bigger bodies like

00:39:34:28 – 00:39:36:00

it’s the same.

00:39:36:24 – 00:40:10:27

But people like, oh my God, like it’s mine because we hadn’t seen that. And that’s when I started to realize, like, oh, like people just need to see it. Right. And then the more I learned about how like how representation affects our biases and our belief systems and so on, I was like, oh yeah, this we need like all workshops now. I need to have diverse bodies like so that people can just see that it’s possible, because if we as photographers cannot see that it is possible for diverse bodies to be photographed then how the hell are they going to see it? Yeah, right.

00:40:10:29 – 00:40:45:27

So we have to do that work. So that’s where I started kind of educating photographers more and also getting into mindset. It was like the end the middle of twenty eighteen. I was at the height, I would say the height of my financial part of my career. I was making a lot of money. I was shooting a lot. I was traveling a lot. It was amazing. But it actually wasn’t. like looking at my Instagram, looking at everything. You would’ve been like, oh my God, she’s living the dream. I hated my life because number one I was on the assembly train for assembly line for boudoir.

00:40:45:29 – 00:41:19:04

I was just like, get them in, get them, get them and get them out. There was no connection. Traveling was a great way for me to basically being busy became my new addiction. Right. Let me just work more in it than battle over, over override all these feelings that are coming up. Let me just distract with more work. Yeah. And so I was like having this like it was basically like I split in two pieces. Part of me wanted to go to teach and and so on. But I, my brain kept coming up with excuses why I couldn’t.

00:41:19:06 – 00:41:30:23

Or these belief systems like, no, you can’t just do that. You have to you’re a photographer. This is how people know you and the ego likes that. So I was like, let me stay here. The ego’s happy

00:41:31:12 – 00:42:01:03

Isn’t that funny. Like even with this, just the studio example. I remember thinking if I let go of my studio, are people going to think that I’m, like, not as successful anymore or I’m not is and even something as small as that? And like I should say, like there was a time when I loved having that big studio and I loved managing it myself. But like, things change and things happen and like, that’s OK, because this is what works for me right now. But it’s interesting how in my head I’m like, I don’t. Anyways, it’s. Yeah, go ahead.

00:42:01:05 – 00:42:37:11

But that’s why. Yeah. So it was like but that’s when I realized, like, I got to get my mind under control. No one I hadn’t actually dealt with my dad’s death. That was 10 years later. And it was I’m very good at like, oh no, I’m strong and independent, I’m good. But then those things still like being hey don’t forget about me, but the way I do things is like, well, let me go learn about this to help other people. So I went back to school and got certified in applied positive psychology. So I got to learn very intensively about all the ways that our brain works, which is fantastic.

00:42:38:11 – 00:43:13:07

And it was in doing that, that that’s where I wrote a book based on the that like and how it relates to body image. And it just gave me so many more tools. But it also helped me to recognize, like, hey, you’re the only one holding yourself back from moving forward. What are you doing? And really improved my self awareness because it was basically like seven months of consistent therapy, basically because they make you go through everything. But I realized, like, I can’t be a role model to these people that I’m educating.

00:43:13:09 – 00:43:29:11

If I’m I’m preaching one thing or talking about one thing over here, like I go for take the chance, do the thing, take the risk. And I’m still sitting here like, oh, no, but it’s super safe here where people still like me. Yeah. And that’s when I had to unravel that icky stuff.

00:43:29:13 – 00:43:34:26

Authenticity going back to being authentic with what you’re teaching or doing or providing like.

00:43:34:28 – 00:44:07:03

So like there was this eww, I don’t like the way that feels and I don’t do well when there’s like I am a Libra, so maybe that’s why. But when there’s like an imbalance or I’m in limbo or whatever you want to call it, I do not do well there. Like, I need to make a decision and do the thing like whatever the decision is, decide to stay, decide to move, whatever you do, make a damn decision. And so and so the pandemic hit. Right. And it was during that that I kind of was like, OK, of course, I like everyone.

00:44:07:05 – 00:44:43:06

I had this, like, panic, like, oh my God, what are we going to do? And I was like, what? My community needs me right now. What am I here to do? I’m here to empower, OK? I don’t have the same tools that I used to have. What can we do? So so I started to do webcam photo shoots for people. I was like, look at most of we talk about the experience being the most important piece with the photos just being the memento at the end of it. Let’s see if I can do that with the only tool that I have available to me, which is a webcam. And so I would do so. I tested this out on a few different clients and friends, mostly for other photographers that were like like, let’s see.

00:44:43:24 – 00:45:14:20

But but then I created a tutorial about it for people, for other photographers. I’m like, I don’t know if you want to do it. It just gives you something to do. It’ll help you engage, keep in touch with your clients while you’re at home. And it’s just like it’s positive. It’s a positive thing. You’re like still yelling positive things at them through the Internet. It’s lovely. And it was watching the photographers take what I had taught and all of a sudden it was like all their depression, like lifted because they had a purpose again.

00:45:15:09 – 00:45:50:07

And and then I was like, OK, now I’m I’m done with webcam sessions because I because I wanted to learn it, to teach it, and now other people can go do it. And I got more joy out of watching the photographers execute what I had taught than I did about actually doing the thing myself. And so that was a very good experience for me to recognize, to say, OK, you get more joy over here. Now, like you said, I did use to get it from over here. There’s a lot of joy over here. But but now I say, like, if it’s no longer serving or saving me, it’s time to let it go.

00:45:50:09 – 00:46:34:10

Totally. Right. And so that’s when I kind of was like, OK, we need to start making moves to kind of really lean into the education side of things like be there for your community, how can you support them? And then and then the Black Lives Matter movement, like really like took off. And that’s when I looked around again at the industry. I was like, oh, wow, there’s a lot of people getting in trouble because we don’t know the basic human ethics. So I created like the boudoir university, which essentially is just like seven human ethics courses on different areas of oppression to help photographers understand how our lack of knowledge can impact the clients that we’re not seeing or the clients that.

00:46:34:13 – 00:46:52:02

do trust us, and we are doing them a disservice. So, again, it was the same thing, but for that I didn’t teach at all. I just reached out to other people that were already advocates in their area, which was amazing to see them do that. But I did realize I don’t want to create a school .

00:46:53:19 – 00:47:24:23

like it was a good experience and it was delightful. And I’m glad the content exists, but I’m a moving forward kind of gal. Yeah. And then as far as like body image boot camp, those that actually came out of my clients, it was doing a reveal with one client who like exists in more of a stereotypical body, we’ll say like that. We normally see a smaller body and she’s like she can reveal. And then afterwards I got an email back like I hated my photos.

00:47:24:25 – 00:48:00:14

It’s not you. I just literally don’t like what I see myself. I don’t like the way I look. I don’t like myself. And that’s when I realized, like, there’s probably about two percent of clients of mine anyways that need more than just a photo shoot. And that’s when I really started to dig into the psychology aspect of body image and the science behind it to help them and help them. And so I created a course called Body Image Boot Camp, which walks people through. Where did it start? How are you perpetuating and how can you move forward and similarily I was doing it originally for my clients and then I was like, wait, I is one person can only do so much.

00:48:00:16 – 00:48:07:20

So now let’s talk to the photographer so they can teach the content to their clients. Yeah, yeah. That’s kind of where that came from.

00:48:08:06 – 00:48:21:11

Something that you posted on Instagram that I loved. It said something along the lines of let’s stop using the phrase real bodies like I photograph real bodies because every body is real. We talk a little bit about that.

00:48:22:03 – 00:48:53:06

So, yeah. So I understand the intention behind people using phrase like normalized normal bodies or real bodies. But when we have to specify you’re essentially overstating something that is true already, like if bodies were are real, we don’t have to say that they are real. Right. It also detracts from the bodies that we have been seeing, like the smaller bodies that we’ve seen in media. Yes, that’s all we were shown. But that’s not their fault. They were still bodies too right.

00:48:53:11 – 00:49:19:18

And so when people say things like that, it detracts from the people that do exist in smaller bodies. But also it just like emphasizes that, oh, no, like, these are still different bodies. And we have to just make sure, you know that these are real and normal bodies. It’s like if they were, you would just say, oh, there’s a body and there’s a body. But my hope is that we just stop talking about bodies altogether because they’re really just always changing and moving.

00:49:19:22 – 00:49:46:10

So, yeah, yeah. I really love what you’re doing. You’re bringing such great awareness. It’s it’s important work. And I love also that you like you said, you’re only one person. You can only teach so many people. But when you open it up to teaching other creatives, other photographers or other, you know, stylist or whomever about body positivity, it does it opens up so much more possibilities. So I really love it.

00:49:46:21 – 00:50:18:06

Thanks. Yeah, it’s been so fun though. And my favorite thing is literally watching, like not not just seeing the photographers, like they share their photos of clients that maybe they wouldn’t have shot with before, but they’re shooting them in a different way now than they would have shot before. Like the way we stand, like the rules that we’re taught in photography are very sexist. But also they totally dismiss, like, non binary folks or just like people that don’t necessarily like I’m not super femme like or feminine like.

00:50:18:16 – 00:50:39:05

But that’s what is expected of me because I identify as a woman, you know, and I’m like, no shoot. Shoot me like you would photograph a man like shoot up at me, let me show my broad shoulders, show my strength in my power like I don’t want to be submissive and shot down on just because I’m in a plus size body. Get out of here with that.

00:50:39:10 – 00:51:12:17

Yeah. Yeah. And you get to have that choice and that voice and it shouldn’t be assumed that you want it the other way. Like. Yeah. And I try. Well I don’t try to I listen to what my clients when they say that because I will have clients who will say make me look as thin as possible, take twenty pounds off of me. And you know, there’s this little part of me that feels a little bit like just kind of makes me feel sad. But at the same time that’s what they’re asking for for me. And I’m here to provide a service. And clearly what you do is more in depth and more on the educational piece of it.

00:51:12:19 – 00:51:18:24

But I’m like, all right, that’s what they want in their photos right now. And so that’s what I’m going to give them. So it’s like, I don’t know,

00:51:19:02 – 00:51:56:08

it’s but that’s where I went because I still say that, of course, like, yeah, I have to say stuff all the time because, like, culture and beauty standards runs so deep you wouldn’t even I still like when I look at certain photos of myself. Self portraits are taken by other people, might the preconditioned thoughts come up like, oh, no, you look too big in that photo and then but the key there, I think we can do as photographers or professionals, whatever you’re doing is to just ask questions like why do you think you need to look thinner in photos? I’m just curious.

00:51:57:13 – 00:52:15:27

Our job is more I would say is to just plant a seed like I’m not. I’m not. And I always tell clients this like I do consultations before photo shoots usually. And I’ll usually be like, listen, I’m not going to undo twenty five plus years of negative self-talk in a day. You cannot put that whole thing is not fair. You think that’s going

00:52:15:29 – 00:52:26:26

to hit my head? I’m like, oh, I don’t even know how I would begin, but I like what you just said. It’s planting the seed like there are a few things we can do to maybe help. And I love that you just said that. OK, this is so.

00:52:26:28 – 00:53:01:27

So the other thing I do is I like during the reveal, I actually like I do in person reveals and I always have I just always felt right to me was to sit with people when they see their photos because they are their own worst critic. So I could get their mind set right before they see the photos, because if they come in after having a bad day, they’re already hard wired to look for what’s wrong in the photo. So I always make sure to let them know, like whatever you think you’re going to see is exactly what you’re going to see. I could take the best photos on the planet, but if you already think that you’re going to look like shit, then that’s exactly what you’re going to see.

00:53:02:08 – 00:53:34:22

So I need you to tell them I’m a big advocate for personal responsibility, in case you haven’t noticed. But like, I need them to understand the part that they play in witnessing this. And I am not a magic pill. I’m not the next diet or weight loss or whatever like that. Everyone’s wanting it to just be fixed. And it’s like, no, I need you to put in a little bit of work here, too. Like what you want to see is what you’re going to see and then walking them through a few other things that their brain is going to do, just that they’ve trained themselves to do, like hyper focusing on certain parts of your face or body.

00:53:34:24 – 00:54:06:00

Whenever you look at any photos, I tell them when you do that, you’re missing the whole context. Guilty. Yeah. And like I always tell them, I’m like photography was not created for beauty or beauty standards. It literally was created to document a specific moment in time. That’s it. That’s all. Your expectations of it are very. Or what’s making you disappointed. Yeah. And so my job is or when I encourage photographers to do, is show clients photos that might challenge their beliefs.

00:54:06:09 – 00:54:37:15

And what I mean by that is if they have an authentic emotion but they have a double chin or a tummy roll back roll, whatever, that is not your choice to not show that to them. Yeah, and what I do is I show them all the things I show them the ones that are more make maybe make them look thinner or whatever, because that is kind of what they’ve alluded to. But I also show the ones where they were just existing and looking amazing. And then I let them know before they see them that I want you to understand you don’t have to love all these photos.

00:54:38:09 – 00:55:08:12

I’m like, I don’t care. Actually, if you don’t. If you’re seeing them, they’re good photos. I’m sorry. I say I’m a bit of a cocky bitch that way. But what is true is like if you’re seeing them, they’re good photos, and I need you to understand that. So if there’s something else I would like to know about it so I can help you through that, make a little when you go home and cry about it, I want you to tell me so we can talk about at the very least, let me hold space for whatever it is you’re feeling. But I let them know that if you’re seeing these photos, there’s the ones that you don’t love.

00:55:08:14 – 00:55:19:05

I just need you to know that somebody thinks those parts of you are beautiful. Yeah. Even if you don’t believe it yourself yet. Yeah. And then that helps kind of crack them open a little.

00:55:19:15 – 00:55:58:15

Yeah. That I love that. What are your thoughts on if you see yourself more often? You know, there are certain things that I when I started doing video with Sue even as just as a student or whatever, and I would see myself and I would cringe and be, you know, where other people might never notice me, like shut the fuck up. Like, that is not even, you know, but for me, it was a big deal. And the more that I saw myself on camera, whether it was photos or videos, and now I do these videos even hearing my own voice, at first I was like, oh, my God, I can have a salad with my mom, with my Michigan accent, like.

00:55:59:07 – 00:56:29:03

And it took me a long time that now I hear my voice. I’m like, all right, you know what that is me and I kind of like getting emotional right now, just even thinking about it, which is I don’t even but like now I can hear my voice and I like it and I can see myself on camera, and there are times that I’m like, I’m not such a great day. But I learned to love myself more by seeing myself more. And I’m like, OK, so I’m glad you said, tell me more about that.

00:56:29:13 – 00:57:00:10

Yeah. So exposure therapy is a thing for a reason, right? Like where where you. You expose yourself to the thing that you’re afraid of the most is like over time, you will eventually build up kind of a resistance to the fear part of it. OK, if we break it down to like a psychology aspect of it, like that initial thought that comes jumping up is like, oh, I don’t like the way I sound on on there is because it’s uncomfortable. This is this is the key. It’s not bad.

00:57:00:12 – 00:57:38:18

It’s uncomfortable for your brain. Your brain is built on representations like little maps, essentially. So you see yourself very one specific way, because the only way you usually get to see yourself, if you’re not like you and me, where we see ourselves in videos and photos all the time is that we see ourselves in a mirror very one specific way. We have this very specific identity about ourselves, and usually that identity is crafted by other people’s beliefs. I say ancestral telephone is a bitch because like we we see parts of ourselves that somebody said, oh, your nose is too big or your arms are too hairy or whatever the thing is.

00:57:38:20 – 00:58:09:20

And so when we look at ourselves in the mirror, that’s all we see because our brain loves negativity. So we’re just like creating this lovely map of what we look like. But our brain is like, yes, predictable. I know that person. So when we see ourselves in a photo, Number one, it’s usually the opposite of what we’ve been staring at. So when it does its little map scan of the body or the face, it’s like, well, that’s that’s not Nikki. Like, wait, whoa, wait a minute. That’s not where her eyebrow normally is. And so it causes this little bit of stress.

00:58:09:22 – 00:58:40:05

Now, when we’re stressed, we focus more on risk and negativity. Yeah, right. So all those negative thoughts come off of like, oh, god, oh, God, everybody’s going to see this. Oh, my God. They’re going to think I look terrible. And then the belief systems come up and like, yeah, that’s because nobody really likes you, by the way. And what if you’re too ugly? Then you’re going to get ousted from the tribe and then you might die. Essentially, it all boils down in like a millisecond to I might die. And so your brain is like fearful.

00:58:40:16 – 00:59:11:16

But if you go into it and you’re like, OK, that is me, just like hearing your voice, you’re like, you know what? I got to get over this because I got to listen to myself. This is what I’m being pushed to do or I’m doing it. And over time, there’s a point where you’re not like, oh my God, I love the way I sound on tape or recording. You’re just like, that’s, I guess, what I sound like to some people. Yeah, yeah. It’s like it just is. And the reality is, is we just are.

00:59:11:18 – 00:59:46:17

But we attach thoughts and make things to mean something more than they actually mean. So if we think about right. Like if we think about a double chin in a photo, what we’ve been taught that fat is bad, I’m a fat person. I can tell you that my life is awesome. And it’s not as bad as people make it seem. There is oppression, don’t get me wrong. But I mean, overall, I’m a generally happy person. Yeah. And like but when we see that photo, that fear comes in of like gasp I’m big and big is bad because we’ve been taught that from the time we were little.

00:59:46:19 – 01:00:22:12

And so now we have to do the work to say, OK, hold up. Why do I think big is bad? Who taught me that big is bad? What does that mean if I’m big? And like go through the thought process, that’s where curiosity is your best line of defense. And I actually tested this at the studio. This is the project that I used to do campaigns where I’m like, I have a theory. If people look at the same photo of themselves over a week and they just like write all over it, whatever they’re thinking, they will become aware, number one of what they’re thinking.

01:00:22:28 – 01:00:53:23

But if I give them homework to do in between to counteract that, will it change the way they view that photo later on and sure as shit, it worked. Yeah. So yeah. So yeah, seeing yourself all the time. No. One, it breaks down the comfortability that your brain initially feels when you see yourself on camera hear yourself on camera or photograph or whatever it is. So I encourage people and sometimes I will throw in the photo that the client has the hardest time accepting into their collection because I’m like, here’s your homework.

01:00:54:04 – 01:01:12:02

I want you to look at this and I want you to journal everything, no matter how vile of a thought it is. And then I want you to use these questions and I want you to just sit in there for a second and explore without judging it and say, because the thing is, you’re thinking them anyway. So you might as well talk with them and say, where did you come from?

01:01:14:02 – 01:01:43:17

and it’s like, again, is it serving me or saving me? Because at one point those thoughts your brain believed were saving you and serving you to fit in with your peers, to make your parents happy, to do whatever. But at some point they will get in your way and stop you from accepting yourself, living your most authentic self life and making and charging what you want. You can literally make you sick. Yeah. So it’s like at some point you have to make a decision. Yeah.

01:01:44:21 – 01:02:16:27

So and I was laughing earlier when you were talking about how we see each other the other way, because our producer and tech director, Callen and Vincent, they know that we started using a different program and it flipped me and I was like, hold the phone. Like I do like, who is that? I’m pretty sure the words came out of my mouth. I look like an alien. You need to change this back. Like I was freaking out. And Vinton’s probably laughing right now as he’s listening to this because that is one hundred percent was my reaction.

01:02:16:29 – 01:02:19:24

Flip me around. I can’t look at myself like that. Well, the thing

01:02:19:26 – 01:02:29:06

is, they’re probably like, well, that’s what you look like to us. Like one of them look the other way. They’re like, that doesn’t look like Nikki. It’s not like my map of Nikki is.

01:02:29:23 – 01:02:38:05

That’s how my kids see me. That’s how my sister I’m a friend. I’m all these things. And this is how people see me all the time. And somehow they still love me

01:02:38:07 – 01:02:53:02

like that because that’s what I tell people. It’s the same thing with angles, right. I always get people to do an activity we could do with the listeners if they want to do it. Do you have your phone with you? Yeah. OK, so I want you to take a normal selfie like you normally would.

01:02:53:28 – 01:02:54:28

Me and I.

01:02:55:02 – 01:03:05:08

I just know I love or slightly above. We’re not fools. We’ve been taught the tools. OK, so your second selfie, I want you to put it down here and take the same photo.

01:03:05:19 – 01:03:08:23

Oh, I end up with this all the time when I open it and just

01:03:08:25 – 01:03:10:15

give it a nice little smile.

01:03:12:27 – 01:03:14:03

And which one do you like?

01:03:14:05 – 01:03:25:18

More wait really quick if you’re listening and not watching, because this is we’re doing this as video is it had me do it normally. And then the second one she would be holding like under my chin kind of as you hold

01:03:25:20 – 01:03:29:24

on to your chest and then look down at it. So, yeah. Which photo do you like the most?

01:03:30:01 – 01:03:30:29

I mean, the first one.

01:03:31:23 – 01:03:32:28

So why do you think that is.

01:03:34:13 – 01:03:38:26

Well, I don’t know my shit. I mean, it just doesn’t look like me as much.

01:03:38:28 – 01:04:00:29

You don’t have a double chin usually is the number one answer I get. My face looks slimmer, my eyes look bigger in the first one, like in a good way. Everything, I guess. Right. And then I’m like, and what does what does most of that mean? That means that smaller is better. We’ve been conditioned to believe this. Now, what angle do you think your children and Pat see you at the most? Oh, my

01:04:01:01 – 01:04:03:15

gosh. The underneath one. They’re always looking up at me.

01:04:03:18 – 01:04:07:10

And do they love you any less because you have a double chin much?

01:04:07:12 – 01:04:08:29

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’m a

01:04:09:01 – 01:04:39:19

mom and like you have infinite angles. This is the thing. You have infinite angles. There’s people seeing you from all sorts of different angles all the damn time. Yeah. And the reality is your accomplishments and who you are as a person didn’t go away because of the angle of the camera. Like you are still the same amazing human regardless of that. Right. And so it’s like we have to break down again the expectation of what was I expecting. So now when people do like selfies with me, I’m like, hey, we got a one shot selfie. We’re not taking five hundred.

01:04:39:21 – 01:05:05:24

We don’t have our answer to that. We got one shot, whatever we look like. That’s what we look like in that split second. And that’s what we. Yeah. So yeah. Yeah. So what I mean in line with the exposure therapy thing or looking at yourself, I encourage people to take that second photo and make it their home screen on their phone to look at more and more and more. And over time you’ll be like, yeah, I guess that’s just what I look like from the angle like that. Good or bad. It just is.

01:05:05:26 – 01:05:20:02

And that’s that’s a thing. Exposure therapy, because I personally went through it. Yeah. I just with the the job that I have now with the videos and podcasts and teaching, which is everything, and I’m glad it’s the same exposure to the field.

01:05:20:04 – 01:05:50:10

And the other thing that affects it too, like is your mood. Like I did a self-portrait of one day, I was just like feeling shitty about my job and I was like, oh, I don’t have clients booking like super positive, you know, we all go through it. It’s a roller coaster. We know this. But I was like, you know what? I’m going to do some self portraits to make myself feel better. No, that is not what happened. I took them and I was like, oh, these are terrible because I was stressed, which meant my brain was looking for negativity everywhere. And so that’s all I saw.

01:05:50:15 – 01:06:22:27

Shove those photos away into a folder. And there was like two weeks later, life was good again because everything’s temporary, but life is good again. And somebody was like, hey, we need like a headshot. So I went to the folder to find where all my self portraits are. And I came across those photos. I was like, oh my God, look how cute my tum was. Looks like you were adorable. That’s when I was like, wait a minute, the picture didn’t change. It is the same photo. The only thing that changed is the mind that I had looking at it and the mood that I was in.

01:06:23:11 – 01:06:42:24

So I encourage people that are having a hard time looking at photos or things like that is like eat something, drink some water, have a nap and make sure you’re not angry and then do a little like meditation thing to calm yourself down or like tense up your whole body for thirty seconds and let it go. That’s a quick stress reliever. And then and then look at your photos.

01:06:43:00 – 01:06:55:09

Yeah. Good advice for sure. Yeah. Well this has been really informative and empowering dare I say. So thank you. Thank you for sharing everything with us. I love it.

01:06:55:21 – 01:06:57:16

Thank you for having me. This has been awesome.

01:06:57:18 – 01:07:05:09

I do have a couple more questions for you, though, that I always ask at the end of each episode. And the first one is what is something you can’t live without when you’re doing a photo shoot?

01:07:05:29 – 01:07:33:21

Oh, well, my camera, obviously, but that seems well, that’s not true. I did it with a webcam. I would say actually, more than anything, literally, just like a sense of curiosity and exploration for me. And I know that’s not like a tangible thing. And maybe that’s what you meant. But like for me, if I can make anything work, if I’m curious enough, like when when I forget a battery, I will find a way to find a battery, like I will make it work.

01:07:34:00 – 01:07:36:12

Yep. Yep. Yeah. That’s awesome. It’s great skills to have.

01:07:37:06 – 01:07:43:14

Yeah. It’s a good one because then it’s like OK, well I mean don’t worry, I still panic but I’m like well figure it out, we’ll figure it out.

01:07:43:19 – 01:07:53:02

Yeah. I love it. OK, number two is how do you like I always ask these questions. I think about how do you spend your time when you are not working.

01:07:53:24 – 01:07:56:03

Oh sleeping.

01:07:57:21 – 01:08:16:17

Do we not work. Is that an option. Probably not a lot actually. I do work a lot but I would say I like to be outside if I can. I like to get out nature and reading. I love to read like a lot and writing like journaling. I do art journaling and stuff like that.

01:08:16:24 – 01:08:20:10

Cool. And then number three is what’s your favorite inspirational quote.

01:08:21:09 – 01:08:41:01

Yes, I wrote it down before so I would know it. Disappointment exists in the gap between expectation and reality by John C. Maxwell. The other good one is you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with  was by Jim Rome and all of those are that’s basically like the cornerstones of my life.

01:08:41:09 – 01:08:51:24

Yes, definitely good quotes to live by. I sure do. Yeah. OK. Number four is what would you tell people who are just starting out in business?

01:08:53:06 – 01:09:25:13

I would say try everything once, but be very, very clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing and revisit that every three months because it is going to change or niche down or whatever. But it’s very easy, especially now, at least like when I started, there was no Facebook groups, so I kind of had to figure it out on my own, which was good. But now I can see people coming in there like I need the course I need, tell me what to do and there’s no exploration of it.

01:09:25:15 – 01:09:43:12

And so the imposter syndrome is really high in a lot of creatives right now. And the best way to get out of that is just refocusing every few months on why am I doing this, who am I doing this for and staying focused on that and not worrying about other photographers.

01:09:43:14 – 01:09:50:01

Yes, I love that, Terry. Love that. And last but not least, where can people find you online?

01:09:50:21 – 01:09:53:17

Oh, sure. Instagram is probably where I’m the most

01:09:55:11 – 01:10:23:08

active, probably @Teri Hofford. One r at the end and on my website, Teri Hofford.com and Facebook. I do have a Facebook community for photographers that want to learn more about diversifying the bodies in the media, as well as confronting their own body image issues and mindset. Good stuff. And that is under beyond the body mindset and body image coaching. Awesome.

01:10:23:21 – 01:10:29:08

Awesome. Well thank you. Thank you again. And it’s been great. Hopefully we’ll get to meet in person one day.

01:10:29:24 – 01:10:30:25

Yes, I hope so.

Thank you so much for listening to the Portrait System Podcast. Your five-star reviews really help us to continue what we do. So, if you like listening, would you mind giving us a review wherever you listen? I also encourage you to head over to SueBryceEducation.com, where you can find all of the education you need to be a successful photographer. There are over 1,000 on-demand educational videos on things like posing, lighting, styling, retouching, shooting, marketing, sales, business, and self-value

There’s also the 90 Day Startup Challenge, plus so many downloads showing hundreds of different poses. We have to-do checklists for your business, lighting PDFs, I mean truly everything to help make you a better photographer and to make you more money. Once again, that’s SueBryceEducation.com